Technological advances and changing indications for lumbar puncture in neurological disorders

Lancet Neurol. 2018 Mar;17(3):268-278. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30033-4.


Technological advances have changed the indications for and the way in which lumbar puncture is done. Suspected CNS infection remains the most common indication for lumbar puncture, but new molecular techniques have broadened CSF analysis indications, such as the determination of neuronal autoantibodies in autoimmune encephalitis. New screening techniques have increased sensitvity for pathogen detection and can be used to identify pathogens that were previously unknown to cause CNS infections. Evidence suggests that potential treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, will rely on early detection of the disease with the use of CSF biomarkers. In addition to being used as a diagnostic tool, lumbar puncture can also be used to administer intrathecal treatments as shown by studies of antisense oligonucleotides in patients with spinal muscular atrophy. Lumbar puncture is generally a safe procedure but complications can occur, ranging from minor (eg, back pain) to potentially devastating (eg, cerebral herniation). Evidence that an atraumatic needle tip design reduces complications of lumbar puncture is compelling, and reinforces the need to change clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / therapeutic use
  • Spinal Puncture / instrumentation
  • Spinal Puncture / methods*


  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense